CLEVELAND -- In a far corner of the Indians' clubhouse, amid all the hugs and handshakes and the murmur of cliches into microphones about a season ending too soon, three of Cleveland's veterans huddled on Monday night. Josh Tomlin, Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes sat with each other, talking quietly with somber expressions.
They will see each other in the coming days -- during the locker cleanout at Progressive Field and perhaps for some dinners before they go their separate ways for the offseason -- but it is unlikely that they will all wear the same uniform next year. Tomlin and Brantley are among the handful of players facing free agency, which will create a changing of the guard in Cleveland's locker room.
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"I've got a lot of thinking to do," Brantley said before sitting with his teammates. "I've got my family to talk to. I've got these guys in this room to still talk to. Then, we'll go from there. You never know what's going to happen in the offseason."
And if Brantley did just play his final game for the Indians?
"This organization is in great hands," Brantley said. "You look around this room. They've got phenomenal leaders still, great players. They're going to be good for a long time. I hope to be a part of it."
In the aftermath of the Indians' three-game sweep at the hands of the Astros, who finished off their American League Division Series victory by dealing the Tribe an 11-3 rout, silver linings were not on the minds of Cleveland's players. For a considerable portion of the Indians' roster, this may have been their last chance to win a World Series together.
Brantley has played in parts of 10 seasons for the Indians, who acquired him as a prospect in 2008 to complete the trade that sent Carsten Sabathia to the Brewers. Tomlin is Cleveland's longest-tenured player, having been picked in the 19th round of the 2006 Draft. Joining them in free agency will be the Indians' all-time saves leader, Cody Allen, who was selected in the 23rd round of the '11 Draft.
Andrew Miller, Josh Donaldson, Lonnie Chisenhall, Melky Cabrera, Oliver Perez and Rajai Davis are also among the players poised to hit the open market this coming offseason.
Only a few minutes after the loss, that reality was not lost on manager Terry Francona.
"We've got a number of guys that are free agents," Francona said. "You know there's going to be some turnover, and it's a real special group to all of us. So that's a hard one, when you're saying goodbye before you're ready."
Miller and Allen helped a depleted Indians pitching staff reach the World Series in 2016, but they have not been able to rekindle the same October magic over the past two years. Cleveland's bullpen was a trouble area all season and wound up being the weak spot again in Monday's defeat. The Indians held a 2-1 lead through six innings, but then the relief corps was charged with 10 runs the rest of the way.
In an effort to stabilize the bullpen in the postseason, starter Trevor Bauer took on a relief role. Two throwing errors by Bauer in the seventh inning helped swing the game in Houston's favor, but that was not what Allen focused on in the wake of the Tribe's last loss. Allen saw a pitcher willing to help out in any way possible -- a move necessitated by the rest of the relievers' issues.
"For a guy to want to embrace that challenge and face it head on, you've got to root for a guy like that," Allen said. "Watching what he's done, watching what guys like Josey [Ramirez] and Frankie [Lindor] continue to do, just overall, the culture here is unbelievable. We've seen so many guys get better. It's just unfortunate that I wasn't able to help out in the way that I would've liked to."
Allen then echoed Brantley's belief that -- should they leave via free agency this offseason -- the Indians' roster is in good shape going forward.
"I really do [believe that]," Allen said. "This organization's done a pretty good job of putting some pretty good teams on the field without making the big free-agent splashes. ... Guys like Jose Ramirez, Frankie Lindor, Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco -- the backbones and the core and the centerpieces of this club -- either came up in this organization or they got traded for in the Minor Leagues and were developed.
"This organization's going to be just fine with or without whoever the guys are that are free agents."
Miller agreed with that sentiment.
"Every year you have new guys," Miller said. "This organization is set for a long time. There's guys that are going to make this team a contender certainly in the near future. I'm not worried about that right now. I'm worried about trying to process this and move on from it. It's just not the ending we wanted."